National NRM update for May 2021. This update represents just a handful among the hundreds of NRM projects going on across Australia, which are made possible through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and from respective State governments

Central Tablelands LLS recently wrapped up an aerial control program that successfully removed 513 wild deer from the landscape between Bathurst and Orange, and in the West Macquarie area of NSW. While wild deer were the primary pest species, over 500 other species (including feral pigs and foxes) were also culled. This integrated pest control program is being carried out in coordination with landowners and public land managers, and the removal of over 1,000 pest animals builds upon previous work and will assist landholders to better manage remaining pest numbers. Further aerial culls are planned for the region’s northern sections to reduce feral animal impacts in these areas.

North Queensland’s Terrain NRM will be working with landholders from Ravenshoe to Ingham as part of a new $3.2 million project to clean up the water flowing down the Herbert River and out to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. The Upper Herbert Sediment Reduction Project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and focuses on reducing the amount of fine sediment in the Herbert River catchment’s waterways.

The new project will complement a Herbert Gully and Grazing Program that has been running for the past three years, and which has already led to reductions in sediment loads through gully erosion remediation work and changes to grazing management practices. For more information, visit https://terrain.org.au/upper-herbert-sediment-reduction-project/

In WA, the Northern Agricultural Catchment Council (NACC) NRM supported the Nhunadar Watchinar Parnba Community Aboriginal Corporation to undertake a Return-to-Country on Bush Heritage Australia’s Eurardy Reserve. Over 60 people took part in this event, with participants coming from across the state to be involved in discussions about cultural protocols, maintenance at traditional sites, Malleefowl conservation actions, practising Language, and being on Country with family. Activities including workshops provided opportunities for partner organisations to develop ongoing relationships with the Nhunadar community and discover how cultural and conservations actions can be strengthened through these relationships and partnerships. Head to the NACC website for a full wrap-up of the event.

Victoria’s Glenelg Hopkins CMA have released a video detailing the work they have been supporting to protect the Glenelg freshwater mussel, a critically endangered species which is only found in the Glenelg river system. The 2019-2020 bushfire affected a significant area of the catchment, which posed a threat to mussel populations as they are sensitive to the effects of siltation in waterways that often follows a bushfire event. Researchers involved in the project removed a number of mussels as part of an insurance strategy to preserve the population in case water quality in the river system declined in the months following the bushfire. These mussels have now been returned to the river system and Glenelg Hopkins CMA will be involved in ongoing population monitoring and riparian rehabilitation work. Take a look at the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfY94VZBLUQ

In northern Tasmania’s Tamar region, English springer spaniel ‘Sugar’ is being trained to sniff out serrated tussock, as part of a state-wide weed control funding initiative. Serrated tussock is a highly invasive grass species that poses a significant threat to the grazing industry. The identification of serrated tussock by human eye is difficult where it grows amongst other grasses, so having Sugar on its scent will assist with the targeted and widespread detection of this harmful weed. Once trained, Sugar will be able to locate the species in-situ, where it can then be treated by volunteers and landholders. This is part of a larger project focusing on grassy ‘Nasella’ weed species including serrated tussock and Chilean needle grass in the Tamar Valley. Funding was awarded to Tamar NRM for this project as part of the Tasmanian Government’s $5M Weeds Action Fund, administered by NRM North in partnership with NRM South and Cradle Coast Authority.

The Peel Harvey Catchment Council (PHCC) have reported great progress with their Tunbridge Gully restoration project in Boddington, WA. This joint project between PHCC, South 32, Friends of the Reserves – Boddington (Inc.) and Shire of Boddington aims to restore the natural ecosystem and improve water quality through the removal of the invasive weed spiny rush (Juncus acutus) and planting of native seedlings. Since 2017, the area has been spray-treated for weeds, with fire management also used to help with weed control.  The 7ha area has seen over 22,000 seedlings planted, largely thanks to volunteer efforts.  A mixture of native trees, shrubs and understory species seedlings are now dominating the site.

Recent weed survey results have shown a decline in spiny rush coverage from 5.84 hectares in 2015 to 1.98 hectares in December 2020. As native vegetation grows and creates a canopy across the creekline, spiny rush will continue to decline. Ongoing yearly ecological and photo monitoring will be conducted by PHCC and volunteers throughout the area to track the success of this program.

South Australia’s Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board, compost industry representatives and farmers from the region recently attended a field day to learn about the benefits of using compost in broad acre farming systems. At the field day, participants were able to see demonstrations and discuss how compost can be used as a tool in managing vulnerable non-wetting sands. This is a condition in lower rainfall farming environments where sandy soils repel water rather than allowing infiltration. Since a recent dry spell, many sandy soils across the region are lacking soil stability and are at risk of wind erosion. The addition of compost not only brings direct benefits to soils. Diverting organic materials from landfill and composting them helps to reduce methane emissions, a significant greenhouse gas. This benefits climate change through increased plant growth and carbon sequestration in soil and the flow-on effects of improved soil health and water holding capacity following their application. https://www.landscape.sa.gov.au/mr/news/210503-farmers-use-compost-to-improve-soil-health-nws

Over the last few years, Rangelands NRM have been working with Environs Kimberley, the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub and the National Landcare Program to support Aboriginal Rangers in the Kimberley on conservation efforts for the Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis). The bilby is culturally and ecologically important to Traditional Owners and Country and have their own place in dreaming stories across several different language groups in the region. Bilbies are important ecosystem engineers who create favourable conditions for other species. Their burrows provide shelter for other animals, and their foraging increases seed propagation and regeneration, renewing landscapes that have been altered by disturbances.

With support from Rangelands NRM, Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa Rangers and Martu Elders in the Martu Determination have collaborated with NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub scientists to co-design a monitoring program for Greater bilby|mankarr based on Martu priorities, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and tracking skills. The Martu rangers then share their knowledge and teach others how to look for mankarr mirrka (food), jina (tracks), jawana (diggings), ngurra (burrow) and kuna (scats). These important activities help to pass on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and develop the skills of future rangers who care for bilbies and other desert biodiversity.

The endangered Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon (Tympanocryptis lineata) is found only in ACT grasslands and is listed as endangered. From 2020, the ACT Government provided $2.1 million over three years for the initial stage of a conservation project, which includes work to restore and re-connect habitat to help Grassland Earless Dragon (and other grassland species) survive in the landscape.

In late May, a breeding facility opened at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, which will play a critical role in the long-term survival of this species. The initial breeding colony of dragons will start an ‘insurance population’ to guard against extinction and provide a source of genetically diverse animals for eventual reintroduction to the wild. Ecologists will also observe them as part of their research to help conserve and manage this species in the face of threats, which include altered grazing and fire regimes, weed invasion, non-native predators, habitat destruction, and habitat and population fragmentation. For more information on the project, visit https://www.environment.act.gov.au/ACT-parks-conservation/environmental-offsets/monitoring-and-research/grassland-earless-dragon

Queensland’s Healthy Land and Water (HLW), in partnership with Brisbane Catchments Network, Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee and Bayside Creeks Catchment Group, are delivering a collaborative rehabilitation project at the Ransome Road Reserve in Lota. This small but ecologically significant coastal wetland site comprises two hectares of extensive saltmarsh bordered by forested areas containing unique and endangered flora. The project is currently in its first year which is dedicated to intensive weed control (including asparagus vine, lantana and pepper tree) and native species revegetation, with the second year allocated to maintaining these works.

This site has also sustained damage from people illegally entering the reserve in their 4WDs. The project team is hoping to put an end to this with the support of local council and the community. HLW have mapped the site using drones, which makes it easier to define the area’s different vegetation types – as well as points where 4WDs have been illegally entering the reserve. Visit the HLW website for more information https://hlw.org.au/newsroom/underrated-nature-reserve-being-restored-for-community-to-enjoy/